Lunch with Trump

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., left, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., center, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with senators on Feb. 9.

AP photo

Now that Devin Nunes’ memo is out, we see clearly what it really is: a partisan abuse of power intended to discredit multiple American institutions — the FBI and Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation — in order to protect Donald Trump.

It's pathetically transparent and poorly executed. It actually indicates the opposite of what it intended to; that's how weak the attempt was.

But the memo hardly stands alone. Nunes and the rest of his congressional memo-wolf-criers aren't the first Trump sycophants to try this discrediting tactic, and they won't be the last. This administration abuses fundamental American institutions for political ends in ways that degrade and endanger those very bedrocks. The list is long: public lands, the FBI, congressional oversight, police departments,and, most shamefully of all, our military.

Some institutions, like the FBI and the special counsel, are slandered by negative politicization. The Justice Department is rightfully investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election. Despite saying that they know nothing about that influence, Trump, Nunes, et al. claim that those investigating it oppose Trump politically.

First, this is the FBI. Maybe only the U.S. Marine Corps is more conservative, as a culture, among American institutions. Maybe. Mueller, the special counsel, is both the former head of the FBI and a Vietnam-era Marine officer.

Second, if you have nothing to hide, why not welcome the investigation and do everything you can to help it prove your innocence? Riiiight. It's all too obvious.

Some institutions, however, are being abused by positive politicization, by claiming the mantle of that institution for Trump and his party alone. The military is the best example.

When the president claims that opposing him is equivalent to opposing the military, a dangerous boundary is crossed. This is the stuff of banana republics and dictatorships, of both the old Soviet Union and today’s Putin-run Russia. This is North Korean Goofyville-with-nukes talk.

You see it cropping up even in the Missoulian, in letters to the editor. Writers claim to be scandalized that — horror! — the opposition party, and Montana's U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in particular, remained seated during the president’s State of the Union speech to Congress. Never mind that that's what the opposition, Republican or Democratic, does during such speeches. But whatever, you made your political point.

But these letter-writers don’t stop there: they say that remaining seated — not heckling, not walking out; just not standing to applaud their dear leader's great words — was somehow an affront to the military and veterans.

First reaction: What on earth are you talking about? Guess that guy who yelled "You lie!" in 2009 was super-duper-anti-military. Second reaction: Spare us, you’re not clever and you're fooling no one.

Like Vice President Mike Pence when he recently spoke to American service-people at Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan, these letter-writers try to link U.S. military interests to Trump and his party. To oppose Trump is to oppose the military. If you are anti-Trump (for whatever reason), you don't support America's hard-working military women and men, and thus you are anti-America.

These folks made kneeling for the national anthem about the U.S. military somehow, too. Shades of gray be damned: stand or you hate the military!

Stop. Just stop. The military isn't there to be used. It's not your political prop. It has, for the lifetime of our union, stood defiantly apart from the political realm. It does not belong to you.

Letter-writers, Trump, Nunes and Pence alike: you politicize our national institutions to your own shame. Far more crucially, you do so to our country’s long-term detriment.

Jon-Claud Nix is a former Marine Corps officer and resident of Washington, D.C. He worked previously in national security and economic policy and politics. He now resides in Missoula. 

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